Husband & Wife same age different max HRs

by Gillian Ramsay
(Kendal, UK)

Hi. Both myself and my husband are 54, so roughly speaking we should run at 126HR. However, historically speaking (we’ve both done a lot of running since early 40s, up until recently)his heart rate seems to run at a slower rate than mine. For example hard for me is, between 175 and 180, for him it is 165-175. So it seems strange that we would both be working off 126 for MAF. What do you think?

Nicole's Reply:
Hi Gillian, thanks very much for your question. I can tell you that you are not alone in asking this. I too have asked myself this question as like you, my husband and I both run and yet we both have very different max heart rates.

Whilst some would say that 180 is the right figure to base your MAF HR calculation on, others say that back in the day when Phil Maffetone did his research and came up with the 180 figure, that there were far fewer female runners and so his research may have been based on male runners. There is also research which shows that females do have a higher HR than men based on their different physiology and hormones. Also as we age, our max HR does tend to fall a bit but it is more gradual in woman compared to men.

Personally I think there are a few ways to approach this issue:
1. Follow Phil Maffetone's 180 rule.
2. Get lab tested to find out where your real fat burning zone is.
3. Follow an 80/20 training program whereby you do 80% of your training at MAF and 20% as speedwork. I often use this method and it helps satisfy the itch! Matt Fitzgerald 80/20 Running
4. Find out your max HR and use that instead of 180. Zach Bitter has been a very successful advocate of MAF training and he recommends using your real max HR. The video below explains how to calculate it.

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